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ULTIMATE ETHIOPIA

Sunday 13th November - Friday 2nd December 2011

Nigel Redman

Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco (Paul Matson)

Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco (Paul Matson)

Ethiopia is a classic sub-Saharan destination with a wide range of habitats and an impressive list of species, including more endemics than almost any other comparable region of Africa. We have been operating tours to Ethiopia since the late 1980s and, despite habitat changes and population growth, it just seems to get better and better. This year’s tour was almost certainly our very best ever, with 540 bird species and 45 mammals recorded in just under three weeks! This magnificent total included all the endemics (except for the near-mythical Nechisar Nightjar), almost all the available specialities, and no fewer than 110 diamond (?) species! Moreover, everyone on the tour saw all the Ethiopian/Eritrean endemics, and saw them well. These included the prehistoric-looking Wattled Ibis, the enigmatic Blue-winged Goose, the highly localised Harwood’s Francolin, the strangely tame Rouget’s Rail, the elegant Spot-breasted Lapwing, the handsome White-collared Pigeon, the localised Yellow-fronted Parrot, the tiny Black-winged Lovebird, the charismatic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, the variable Banded Barbet, the elusive Abyssinian Woodpecker, the rare Sidamo Lark, the common Erlanger’s Lark, the little-known White-tailed Swallow, the grassland-loving Abyssinian Longclaw, the rock-loving Rüppell’s Black Chat, the handsome White-winged Cliff Chat, the recently split Ethiopian Cisticola, the easy-to-see Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, the vocal Abyssinian Catbird, the shy White-backed Black Tit, the cryptic Abyssinian Oriole, the very special Stresemann’s Bush Crow, the impressive Thick-billed Raven, the subtle White-billed Starling, and a full set of localised endemic seedeaters, namely White-throated, Yellow-throated and Salvadori’s Seedeaters, Black-headed Siskin and the recently discovered Ankober Serin. We also had some birds endemic to the Horn of Africa such as Chestnut-naped Francolin, Abyssinian Black Wheatear, Sombre Rock Chat and Brown-rumped Seedeater. The following special birds seen on the tour are considered near-endemics: Erckel’s Francolin, African White-winged Dove, White-cheeked Turaco, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Gillett’s Lark, Somali Short-toed Lark, White-rumped Babbler, Somali Fiscal, Ethiopian Boubou, Swainson’s Sparrow, Juba Weaver, Red-billed Pytilia and Abyssinian Waxbill. Other memorable birds included two Abyssinian Owls which, although not endemic, are almost impossible to see anywhere else, while the local race of Black-faced Firefinch is also a near-endemic form. Other tour highlights included many Somali Ostriches on the Ali Dege plains, the very attractive African Pygmy Goose at Lake Awassa, magnificent views of Lammergeiers at Debre Libanos and elsewhere, superb looks at a Fox Kestrel in the Jemma Valley, Moorland Francolins and Wattled Cranes in the Bale Mountains, the shy Allen’s Gallinule at Lake Awassa, a record number of impressive Arabian Bustards and close-up Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse at Bilen, a roosting Cape Eagle Owl near Dinsho, superb views of Donaldson Smith’s Nightjars near Yabello, dry-country Yellow-breasted Barbets at Melka Ghebdu and Bilen, both Eurasian and Red-throated Wrynecks in the same garden at Awassa, several localised larks including Foxy, Short-tailed and Chestnut-headed Sparrow Larks, Black Bush Robin at Melka Ghebdu, Abyssinian Ground Thrush outside the toilets at Dinsho, the localised Somali Crombec, Scaly Chatterer and Northern Grosbeak-Canary south of Yabello, no fewer than 13 species of cisticolas including the distinctive Foxy Cisticola, the much sought-after Spotted Creeper, duetting Red-naped Bush-shrikes, and a great selection of starlings that included Bristle-crowned, Slender-billed, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s, White-crowned, Magpie and Sharpe’s. We also recorded 45 species of mammals, a record for this tour, with unforgettable views of Gelada Baboons, Mountain Nyalas, three stunning Ethiopian Wolves, Giant Root-Rats, an African Clawless Otter, two sightings of Hippopotamus, and (for some) Lion and Spotted Hyaena.

Spot-breasted Plover (Brian Field)

Spot-breasted Plover (Brian Field)